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The Decade's Best Bit Player: Jason Mantzoukas

By Dustin Rowles | TV | December 13, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | December 13, 2019 |


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The thing about Jason Mantzoukas is that there’s arguably nothing he’s been in over the last ten years that wouldn’t exist without him. In fact, all the projects for which Mantzoukas is known would still be very good without him. But Mantzoukas is that little bit of extra seasoning or gravy that turns your A project into an A+. Everything that Jason Mantzoukas touches he makes 10-15 percent better, starting at the beginning of the decade with The League, where — as a recurring character — his Rafi is arguably the most beloved and remembered player on the series and the one with the most quotable lines. GATTACA. And most of those lines? They’re improvised.

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Meanwhile, while recurring on The League, Mantzoukas also recurred on what Emily Nussbaum herself thinks of as the best show of the decade, Enlightened, while he also appeared in several episodes of another of the best comedies of the decade, Parks and Recreation, as Dennis Feinstein.

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That’s mostly what Mantzoukas did during all of the 2010s: He showed up on the best comedies of the decade, from Brooklyn Nine-Nine to Review to The Good Place, Transparent and Drunk History, and he made them better than they already were. He was also a “consulting producer,” whatever that means, on Portlandia and Children’s Hospital. Where there was a zeitgeisty project, Mantzoukas seemed to be around, showing up also in the third John Wick movie, Seth Rogen’s Neighbors, Broad City, or in two episodes of Netflix’s super popular cooking series Nailed It. He’s a writer, too, having co-written Kevin Hart and Ice Cube’s Ride Along, and he’s the voice of Mr. Mucus in those Mucinex commercials because of course he is.

The guy has been in everything, not to mention the fact that he’s the best part of one of the best podcasts around, How Did This Get Made, which helped lead to the explosion of that medium.

If we had to single out one or two projects — besides The League — where Mantzoukas shines the most, it’s in Big Mouth, where he voices every disgusting teenage sex fantasy ever, and his work in I’m Sorry, with Andrea Savage. There, Mantzoukas not only gets to be funny but he also occasionally shows off a very human side, except when he’s eating ice cubes out of the butt of his best friend’s daughter’s preschool teacher.

On top of everything else? He’s hot, too. It’s his dirtbag appeal. And all of that essentially makes Jason Mantzoukas the decade’s best role player, the actor you are most excited to see make a guest appearance in anything.



Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.




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